|Exercise Quick Response 06|
Quick Response 06 is the first major, nationwide exercise of the Belgian Defence since its reform, initiated in 2000, to a four-component joint force with a common command structure. All four Defence Components (Air, Land, Sea and Medical), augmented with units from five European nations are taking part in a 10 day scenario, based upon present-day conflict situations and the use of modern warfare strategies and tactics. Much attention is given to lessons learned during recent missions and conflicts.
The EU, NATO and UN mandate an international Task Force to restore peace and international order in a country invaded by one of its neighbours. The nearly 8,000-strong Task Force is mainly composed of Belgian troops, reinforced with specialised units from Austria, France, Germany, Luxemburg and the Netherlands. The theatre of operations comprises the entire territory of Belgium, the western part playing the role of invaded nation (Coralland), the eastern part that of invader (Woodland). The neighbouring countries figure as allies of one of both belligerent parties or assume a neutral position.
On September 15th, a multinational Special Forces unit infiltrated the North Sea shores of Coralland to reconnoitre landing zones for the main Task Force. The Task Force started to disembark on the beaches of Zeebrugge and Lombardsijde on September 18th. That same day, paratroopers carried out assault landings at Koksijde airbase to occupy and prepare it for conveying additional troops.
On 18 September, paratroopers carried out assault landings at Koksijde airbase to occupy and prepare it for conveying additional troops. C-130H Hercules transports at Koksijde airbase.
After reception and staging, the Task Force started its advance to the Woodland border in the directions of Antwerp and Charleroi with the intention to free the Lüttich pocket in the east of Coralland. Woodland troops have invaded this economic prosperous region under the pretext of freeing the mainly ethnic Woodland population living there from unjust treatment by the minority Coralland authorities. During its push towards the Woodland border, the Task Force encountered active resistance from local authorities and population that did not agree with its presence on Coralland soil.
Additional reinforcements of the 2nd and 3rd Battalions Parachutists – until then held in reserve at Koksijde airbase – ready to take off from the coastal base.
In the meantime, Coralland citizens living and working in the region of the Saint-Hubert in Woodland, called for help as they were increasingly harassed and hostilely approached by Woodland citizens, authorities and military. On September 20th, Pathfinders were secretly inserted to prepare the safe seizure of the local airfield. This took place in the afternoon of September 22nd when two companies of the 3rd Battalion Parachutists made an assault landing on the airfield with a pair of Lockheed C-130H Hercules tactical transport aircraft. One and a half hour later, they successfully chased all Woodland troops and secured the airfield. A safe bridgehead was now established to bring in additional reinforcements of the 1st and 3rd Battalions Parachutists – until then held in reserve at Koksijde airbase – and by the evening of that day, a 250-strong protection force was in position.
Lessons learned from the Rwanda-incident have led to a change in coping with resistance met during protection and evacuation missions: instead of commencing lengthy and difficult negotiations with hostile forces, they have to be neutralized or eliminated immediately and the mission has to be pursued without delay.
The threatened civilians were repatriated to Melsbroek airbase in Coralland on September 23rd. While some refugees could reach the secured Saint-Hubert airfield on their own, others had to be picked up by the military as Woodland authorities and troops restricted their movements.
Reinforcements and equipment can be flown in safely under the protection of troops of the 1st and 3rd Battalions Parachutists that secured the airfield the day before.
Additional troops and supplies are unloaded with running engines to reduce the risk of damage inflicted to the aircraft by e.g. mortar fire from enemy troops hiding outside the secured perimeter.
Refugees are walking to the Hercules tactical transport aircraft that will bring them back to their mother country.
A tactical low-level flight to avoid shoulder launched SAMs and small calibre fire from the ground brings the refugees back to safety in a mere 40 minutes.
Thank you very much, Belgian Defence, for being there when we needed you most…
In the meantime, the Task Force continued its advance in the direction of the Woodland border. Lockheed-Martin F-16s of the Flight Recce of the 2nd Tactical Wing continuously kept an eye on the enemy and especially on the bridges over the main waterways in Woodland. The troops that advanced via the north crossed the Albert Canal without noticeable problems. In the north of the province of Limburg, however, the enemy had destroyed the bridges over the Canal of Beverlo. This obstacle, however, could not stop the Task Force for long. A Leguan, the bridge laying version of the famous Leopard main battle tank, made it crossable again in no time in the early morning of September 23rd, further opening the way in the direction of the Lüttich pocket.
The second main element of the Task Force continued to the southeast to protect the southern frontiers of the Provinces of Namur and Luxembourg. This action should prevent Woodland troops from crossing these borders and from outflanking the advancing Task Force via neutral Scarletland. Their push, however, encountered severe resistance in the region of Bertrix and Neufchâteau on September 27th. Time to call upon the Air Component for close air support (CAS) to neutralise or eliminate resisting enemy elements.
Lockheed-Martin F-16AM “Beast 01” leaves its shelter. F-16 MLU aircraft upgraded to Tape M3 level are capable to deliver the all-weather INS/GPS-guided air-to-ground Boeing GBU-31(V)1/B Joint Direct Attack Munition (JDAM), which is based upon the Mk. 84 2,000 lb general purpose bomb. The main advantage of these new weapons is that they can be used in adverse weather conditions that hamper the use of Raytheon GBU-12 Paveway II laser guided bombs because of the lack of visual contact between bombs and targets. The first JDAMs have now arrived in Belgium and will soon be distributed to the 2nd and 10th Tactical Wings.
The tamer of the beast: Captain (congratulations!) Ken “Joyce” De Trogh.
Combat operations ended when the Task Force eliminated the last pockets of resistance on their way to Arlon on September 28th. That same day, Special Forces arrested the instigator of the aggression against Coralland in a lightning attack on his hideaway in Elsenborn. Accused of war crimes, he was immediately conveyed to appear for an international tribunal.
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Text and pictures by
© Jos Schoofs (September 2006)
Additional pictures by Lambert Derenette
More Quick Response 06 pictures taken at Koksijde by Lambert Derenette here.
Last updated 06/10/06 07:43 Daniel Brackx